Dr Raja Radha Reddy
The Raja Radha Reddy Centre for Performing Arts recently organised Parampara Series which has been going strong since last 18 years, highlighting various creative classical pieces invigorating the minds of the audience by bringing in new themes that give a fresh approach to otherwise traditional art forms. We were extremely honoured when Dr. Raja Reddy himself agreed to talk with The Dance Bible, about the beautiful Kuchipudi dance tradition, his family, the future of the classical art form and much more!
Q: Being born into a Kshatriya family, in a small village in the Telangana region, how difficult was it for you to pursue your passion for dance?
A: In our village there was no dance except Bhagavatam, only lower caste people were supposed to perform. As, there was no dance school in our village so we came to Hyderabad city and I alone approached a traditional Kuchipudi dance guru who bluntly refused to teach me dance because he only wanted male dancers who were suitable for the female role. After sometime when Guru Vedantam Prahalada Sharma came to Hyderabad to give a performance along with his troops, instead of going alone I took Radha along with me and we requested him to teach us dance, he immediately agreed after seeing me and Radha together. He asked us to come to Eluru (west Godavari district) where he was living. Then I and Radha went to Eluru and we learnt from him this great art. We came to the capital of India to popularise this art all over the world.
Q: Your personal life has been as much as in the limelight as your professional life. If you were to perform the story of Dr Raja Radha Reddy and Kaushalya ji’s life on stage, what elements would you choose to showcase through the beautiful form of Kuchipudi’s Nritta, Nritya and Natya?
A: When we came to Delhi, Radha was feeling lonely, so my in laws sent Kaushalya as a support. She also got interested in dance and started practicing dance. We were selected by ICCR to go and perform Kuchipudi in South East Asia. At the eleventh hour, the nattuvanar(who plays symbols) refused to come to this tour, in that moment Kaushalya was taken in as a Nattuvanar for this tour. She conducted the programme and the show was a great success. When people started admiring and appreciating our performance, Kaushalya was so inspired by this appreciation that she decided to be with us throughout to perform and conduct our programmes and to promote this sacred art of our land, that’s how we got united and became the dancing family.
Q: In today’s contemporary times, you still maintain the traditions of the Guru Shishya Parampara. Has it been difficult to sustain this long established custom? Do the students learning under you understand its significance?
A: Classical dance is such an art that has to be learnt with the guru personally. We cannot learn this art through media. In our institution Natya Tarangin, the students come from all over the world to learn ,practice and perform with us. This is how we are maintaining the Guru Shishya Parampara. When students come personally they realise that it is essential to learn in person, that is why we established our institution Natya Tarangini to teach students this art personally.
Q: Indian Classical Arts define the cultural heritage of our country. Do you think our government supports and promotes the Indian Classical Dances to their maximum capabilities? If it were up to you, what essential introductions or changes would you make in the framework of the government’s policy towards the Classical Arts?
A: Our India is such a nation which is deeply rooted to the glorious traditions of Indian classical dance and these classical dances provide a very distinguishing experience of bharat which was ,is and will be (sambhavame yuge yuge).Indian government is supporting but not to that extent. India is known throughout the world for its art and culture and government should give first preference to encourage this art, like students should know about dance, sculpture music and other forms of art in their school. The gurus and institutions who are completely dedicated to this art should get full support and should be encouraged by the government otherwise this art will fade away.
Q: How do you feel seeing your daughters, Yamini and Bhavana Reddy, following in your footsteps and making a name for themselves as Kuchipudi dancers? Is their way of working and perception toward the dance form different from yours?
A: We are really proud of our daughters; both of them are dedicated to this sacred art, Kuchipudi. Even though they got great job offers and marriage proposals from different parts of the world, they refused it because they wanted to remain in India to perform, teach and promote this art.
My elder daughter, Yamini Reddy , she is in Hyderabad and has started an institution with the same name Natya Tarangini., teaching and performing Kuchipudi dance all over the world.
Bhavana Reddy , the younger one apart from Kuchipudi, she has learnt Carnatic vocal music and also western contemporary music for which she went to Hollywood and graduated from Musicians Institute in Los Angeles . She is performing Kuchipudi dance along with western contemporary to show that the whole universe is one family (vasudhaiva kutumbakam) and that we also need to learn their art.
Q: You have devoted your life towards popularizing Kuchipudi dance, not only in India but across the globe – from being the first Indian dancers to participate in the International Dance festival of Avignon in France and Salzburg in Austria, to enthralling audiences from NewYork to London, to setting up the Natya Tarangini Raja Radha Reddy institute of Kuchipudi dance, to organizing the prestigious Parampara series – just to name a few. How satisfying has your journey been and what future do you foresee for the Kuchipudi dance form?
A: My only dedication was towards dance because of which we had to leave our native land and come to Delhi to popularize it all over the world. We feel very proud that we are solely responsible in bringing Kuchipudi dance on to the cultural map of the world and we are the only family completely dedicated towards dance. This is the natyam which provides a unified forum and gives a universal enlightenment.
Q: Your last words of wisdom to your fans and the many aspiring dancers all over the world?
A: As our Ex President Late Dr. A.P.J Abdul Kalam said “small aim is a crime, one should have a vision and work hard till you achieve it “ that’s what we did and we are very blessed with what we got and the dancers should do sadhana (practice) with devotion till they get self anandam (the inner bliss).
Beautiful words by Dr. Raja Reddy. So dear dancers, aim to get anandam by doing sadhana with a gracious heart.